September 2 I Thursday
1 Corinthians 13
“He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” —Luke 10:27
When an expert in the law asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered by posing His own question: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:25-26). The expert replied by combining two Old Testament laws. The first was from Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” The second was from Leviticus 19:18: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself.” His answer was an astute summary that God’s law is essentially about loving Him and loving our neighbours.
The problem, however, is that the Jewish people had a limited understanding of who they considered their neighbours. Leviticus 19:18 condemned revenge against “anyone among your people,” so the Jews deduced their “neighbours” included friends, relatives and, at its broadest, the people of Israel. Jesus challenged this perspective when He quoted, in the Sermon on the Mount, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy” (Matthew 5:43). He was not referring to Scripture, but to the received wisdom of the day that Jews could love people in their circle but hate the rest.
The New Testament not only expands the definition of neighbour to include everyone, but it says that loving God is expressed in loving our neighbours. Though we can love others without loving God, it is impossible to love God without loving others. 1 John 4:20-21 says, “For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen….Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” John does not write this as a “must” of command, but a “must” of inevitability. If our love for God is genuine, our love for our neighbours will also inevitably be genuine.
When the expert in the law summarized the law as “Love God and love your neighbour,” Jesus responded, “Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:28). This is, of course, impossible in our natural state. Our hearts, souls and minds give more evidence of selfishness and indifference than of love, so how can we possibly “do this and live?” Answer: By the Holy Spirit’s enabling!
True love is a fruit of the Spirit, not a fruit of the determined Christian. To love God is to love our neighbours, and it is because of His regenerative work in our hearts that we find the law of love fulfilled in our lives and lived out towards others.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, forgive me if I have tried to separate the spiritual from the material, thinking I can love You without showing love to others. Thank You for Your enabling to love my neighbours.